Starting an asparagus bed

I have written articles on asparagus for many years and each article is different because of the type of spring we have. As I write this article, it is about 70 degrees, but the forecast for tomorrow is rain with snow flurries.
Each spring when we sell bare root plants, we are pleasantly surprised at how many new asparagus beds are being planted. For the past couple of years, we have offered Jersey Knight which is a newer variety that is a male strain. This means the ferns don’t go to seed, so the stalks remain tender longer. Another nice feature of this variety is that it is rust resistant, with strong spears that are tender until you harvest them.
Tom Dickhudt and I did a class on asparagus last spring. We pointed out how important pre-planning is for most perennials, especially for asparagus. First, get a soil test so you are aware of the soil you have, and there still is time to do that. We suggested preparing the soil a year ahead, to rid the area of weeds, especially quack grass. This is important because a good asparagus bed should last about 20 years. The best planning includes using a herbicide one year previous to rid the area of weeds.
Asparagus roots can be grown on sandy soil, to heavy clay loam. However, the highest yields are obtained on deep, sandy loam that is well drained. Be sure the plants are in full sun, and away from trees and shrubs that will rob the sunlight and moisture away from the plants.
When you are ready to plant, dig a trench about eight to ten inches deep and wide enough to be able to spread the roots. If you have never seen an asparagus root, they look like an octopus with many legs. Space the plants about 18 inches apart, and if you have more than one row, leave 4 feet between the rows. I always put water in the trenches, so I plant in mud, but that’s me. Cover the roots with at least 2 inches of soil above the crown. The important part is the soil along the trench, which will be used to cover the shoots as they come up, much as you would do with dahlias and gladiolus. Continue to fill in the trench as the ferns continue to grow, placing loose dirt around the plant without covering the fern. Asparagus roots handle dry weather quite well, but since this is a new patch, keep it from getting too dry. Keep the weeds out and remember not to harvest for at least two years.
We still have asparagus, as well as other plants for sale, so call the Extension Office at 651-277-0151.

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